Written therapy for mental illness

Chris Gillis, from Broomhill, has written a book about the stigmitisation of mental health  in society. It is initially being sold as an E-book and will be printed at a later date
Chris Gillis, from Broomhill, has written a book about the stigmitisation of mental health in society. It is initially being sold as an E-book and will be printed at a later date
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A young man who has battled mental health problems since he was a teenager has written a book about his experiences in a bid to reduce the stigma surrounding the condition.

jack Fenix admits he was a ‘text book’ case of someone suffering from psychosis.

At the lowest point in his battle he was suffering from delusions that had him convinced people were listening outside his bedroom door and watching his every move.

It got so bad he was adamant that government agents had tapped into his brain and could even read his mind.

By this point Jack, the pen name under which he writes, had been struggling with mental health problems for eight years.

It began with an incident he is unwilling to share the details of, aged 15, which left him suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Rather than seek help to deal with the depression and extreme anxiety he was left living with as a result, Jack instead sought refuge elsewhere.

“For a long time I just buried it,” he said. “I started taking drugs and drinking alcohol just to try to escape from it all. I was living with an intense feeling of fear every day, it was horrible. I used the cannabis and the drink to try to get away from it.

“They became my crutch.”

He said he believes he was ‘pretty good’ at hiding it from his family, particularly since he knew his parents would not be happy to discover he was taking drugs and drinking heavily. His school work was also neglected and he now admits the GCSE results he achieved fell well short of his potential, while his A-levels were abandoned without ever really much effort being made to do well.

“I didn’t want to talk to anyone about what had happened and the way I was feeling,” Jack said. “It just seemed easier to run away.”

It was while dabbling in this illicit world that Jack found himself suffering a second post-traumatic stress incident. He is willing to talk openly about this experience - which was triggered by taking hallucinogenic magic mushrooms and left him with life-changing consequences.

“It was an awful experience,” he said.

“It made me lose touch with reality in a really serious way. And for almost a year afterwards I had recurring flashbacks where I would relive the entire thing. I kept having the feeling that the world was not real and thoughts that life did not mean anything. It was a similar type of fear to what I’d suffered before, but now I felt like I’d lost all control and I didn’t understand what was happening.”

Jack’s battle against such thoughts continued over the following three years, between the ages of 18 and 21, until finally, with the help and support of a loving family, he started to see light at the end of the tunnel.

He said: “Eventually I came to a different realisation about life’s meaning and about what was and wasn’t real. I’d got the answers I’d been looking for.”

But devastatingly his ordeal was not yet over.

“By the time I was 21 I thought I was out of the woods, so to speak, but unfortunately that wasn’t the case,” Jack said.

“I’d spent so much of my life so far in states of high anxiety, that once there was nothing to worry about any more I started finding things to worry about.”

It was from here that the seeds of his paranoid psychosis were sown.

“I became obsessed with conspiracy theories,” he said.

“The psychotic experience was almost textbook. I was afraid of government agents watching everything I did and listening to everything I said. The paranoia even got to the point where I thought people could read my mind and I wanted to make a hat out of tin foil to protect it.”

It was from here that the original title for Jack’s book - My Tinfoil Hat - came from, although it has since been replaced and published under the name None But The Mad.

It is based on his experiences and was written after he was able to get his illness under control through the combined use of medication and the support of the Early Years Intervention Service and their psychiatric nurses.

Currently published as an E-book, a paperback version is scheduled to appear in the next couple of months.

Jack, now aged 24, hopes that by sharing what he went through he will raise awareness of the prevalence of mental health problems and reduce the stigmatism that sufferers often feel in society.

He also wants to spread a message about the potential dangers of drugs like cannabis.

“One experience I would never repeat is smoking weed,” he said. “Clearly the consequences for me show it is just not worth it.

“I also want help people realise that mental illness can strike anyone and there’s no reason why someone with a mental health problem should be treated differently.

“For something that isn’t contagious, the stigmatism it receives is like it’s leprosy - that’s what I am trying to break down with this book. The fact is that people are not accessing the help and support they need because they are ashamed and that is something that must change.”

Today Jack has his condition under control, although has been told he may have to stay on medication for the rest of his life.

He said he had found writing the book a cathartic experience and is keen to continue and build on it as a career.

“Writing it all down helped me solidify what happened to me and put it in the past,” he said. “I’d always wanted to get into writing and doing this I feel like I finally found my voice. I feel proud of it and I hope it can make a difference.”

n Visit www.chipmunkapublishing.com to order the book.